Weather on other worlds. III. A survey for T dwarfs with high-amplitude optical variability.
HEINZE A.N., METCHEV S. and KELLOGG K.
Abstract (from CDS):
We have monitored 12 T dwarfs with the Kitt Peak 2.1 m telescope using an F814W filter (0.7-0.95 µm) to place in context the remarkable 10%-20% variability exhibited by the nearby T dwarf Luhman 16B in this wavelength regime. The motivation was the poorly known red optical behavior of T dwarfs, which have been monitored almost exclusively at infrared wavelengths, where variability amplitudes greater than 10% have been found to be very rare. We detect highly significant variability in two T dwarfs. The T2.5 dwarf 2MASS 13243559+6358284 shows consistent ∼17% variability on two consecutive nights. The T2 dwarf 2MASS J16291840+0335371 exhibits ∼10% variability that may evolve from night to night, similarly to Luhman 16B. Both objects were previously known to be variable in the infrared, but with considerably lower amplitudes. We also find evidence for variability in the T6 dwarf J162414.37+002915.6, but since it has lower significance, we conservatively refrain from claiming this object as a variable. We explore and rule out various telluric effects, demonstrating that the variations we detect are astrophysically real. We suggest that high-amplitude photometric variability for T dwarfs is likely more common in the red optical than at longer wavelengths. The two new members of the growing class of high-amplitude variable T dwarfs offer excellent prospects for further study of cloud structures and their evolution.